Merchandisers usually work in the retail industry, although much of their job involves fundamental marketing concepts. Merchandisers help product manufacturers reach marketing and sales goals by ensuring their products are properly displayed in retail outlets and by executing promotional campaigns.
Pursuing a career as a merchandiser can be a stepping stone to higher-level positions, such as retail trade merchandising manager.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), overall employment in the retail sector should continue to increase in the coming years. Growth will be driven by consumer demand for goods and services. For example, jobs for merchandise managers, also known as wholesale and retail buyers, are projected to increase by 7% between 2012 and 2022. During that same period, employment of merchandise displayers should grow by 10%, the BLS reports.
Merchandisers are responsible for driving sales by creating product displays that stand out from the competition. They also must ensure products are accessible to customers. Merchandisers work with stock personnel to gather the items to be displayed; they also collaborate with salespeople to analyze business needs and determine which products to feature.
Merchandisers must be creative and often have the artistic talent to design eye-catching displays. Some merchandisers use basic construction skills to build elaborate displays using special signage, shelves, cutouts and lighting to increase product awareness.
Merchandisers must also communicate closely with retail store management to resolve issues regarding product placement, pricing policies or signage. Merchandisers sometimes travel among a number of stores within a geographic area. They are usually scheduled to deliver products, create displays and rotate stock at each retail outlet on a daily basis.
Salary ranges in the field of merchandising vary by the type, size and location of an employer, and a candidate’s work history and educational qualifications, among other factors. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, merchandise displayers nationwide had an annual wage of $29,930 as of May 2013, with the top 10% of earners receiving more than $45,000 a year.
By comparison, merchandising managers in the retail and wholesale trades earned an average of $109,640 in May 2013, the BLS reports. Annual salaries for the top 10% of earners exceeded $165,000.
Prospective students are encouraged to conduct independent research into potential salary ranges and employment outlooks, which also are affected by regional market conditions.
Educational requirements for merchandiser careers differ based on industry and company size. Some employers may require candidates to have a college degree, particularly if they lack extensive work experience. An associate’s degree in Marketing or a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration with a specialization in Marketing can prepare students for advancement in this profession.
Coursework typically includes statistics, accounting, economics, social science and a variety of marketing topics. Graduates of such programs should be able to:
Firms may support opportunities for continuing education. In some cases, it’s possible to gain an entry-level position in merchandising with an associate’s degree and use an employer’s tuition assistance program to pay for a bachelor’s degree.
If you’re creative, have a good grasp of marketing concepts and are self-directed, a merchandiser career could be a great fit. To succeed in this role, it’s also important to be a good communicator with excellent interpersonal skills and attention to detail, as well as the ability to work closely with a broad range of personality types.